World-class research involving neurodegenerative diseases
such as Alzheimer's, and two other University of Otago brain
research topics has been boosted by nearly $300,000 in
nationally awarded grants.
Otago psychology department researcher Prof Cliff Abraham has
received a grant of $201,384 to further his internationally
leading Alzheimer's disease research, in the latest
Neurological Foundation grant round.
Understanding the processes involved in neurodegenerative
diseases such as Alzheimer's was critical in order to
identify targets for drug therapies, foundation officials
The foundation's latest grant round amounted to about $1
million, bringing total research grants from the foundation
to more than $40 million since the first foundation grants
were allocated in 1972, foundation officials said.
Prof Abraham's project will investigate the role of
astrocytes - non-neuronal brain cells - in controlling
memory-related changes in the brain, and whether this
regulation is impaired in a laboratory model of Alzheimer's
Understanding this process could help to identify new targets
for drug interventions to rescue impaired memory and
Learning occurs through changing the strength of synaptic
connections between nerve cells in the brain.
Most neuronal cells communicate via synapses, and this
process is impaired in neurological conditions such as
Otago anatomy department PhD student Laura Boddington gained
a Neurological Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship, providing
$84,000, to investigate whether a type of brain stimulation
that uses the brain's own natural ''theta'' rhythms can
improve recovery after someone suffers a stroke.
Recent Neurological Foundation-funded research using Theta
Burst Stimulation (low-voltage electrical stimulation) had
shown promise as a therapy for stroke victims.
Dr Julia Horsfield, of the Otago pathology department, gained
$11,761 for a project investigating whether cohesin, a
protein regulating cell division, influences the ability of a
neuron to recognise itself, to avoid looping back on itself
when connecting with other neurons, foundation officials